Let the Sun Shine In

Written by Chris Daly. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on November 12, 2010 with 29 Comments

Supervisor Chris Daly. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Chris Daly, special to FogCityJournal.com

Editor’s Note: Photo captions by Luke Thomas.

November 12, 2010

Every four years, there’s one political contest that dominates San Francisco’s political landscape, and for good reason. The Mayor of San Francisco is not just the most prestigious position in City Hall, it is by far the most powerful. And the ability to sign or veto legislation is only the tip of the iceberg. With over 100 staffers in the Mayor’s Office, over 40 department heads, and hundreds of commission appointments, the Mayor of San Francisco has the resources to alter the course of the City, instantly creating new programs and initiatives. Always in the spotlight, the Mayor can set the course of political discussion and with unmatched ability to reward friends and penalize enemies, the Mayor can quickly raise political capital for allied political campaigns.

With respect to San Francisco’s $6.5 billion budget, we’ve seen how the Mayor of San Francisco is more powerful than all 11 Supervisors combined. The incumbent has unilaterally made mid-year cuts and replaced vital health and human services with more pork for his friends in the police and fire unions. In 2007, he refused to spend a veto-proof $28 million appropriation for affordable housing, and then redirected the monies into his pet programs in his subsequent budget submission. Even when the budget is in the Board’s hands, the Mayor makes technical adjustments and can even raise the budget’s ceiling, giving him the upper-hand in the Board’s deliberation of budget restorations.

With a systematic attack from downtown special interests, Progressives have been shut out of the Mayor’s Office for 20 years. While we have had success with district elections, where big money and the daily newspapers’ influence can be negated by direct contact with voters, the closest we’ve come to Room 200 was in 2003, when a Herculean late effort to elect Matt Gonzalez still came up 6 points short. Anyone involved in that race, or in Tom Ammiano’s underdog run in 1999, appreciates the opportunity we have now. In the next 2 months, the Board of Supervisors will decide everything that’s otherwise at stake in a grueling, citywide Mayor’s race. And while downtown is doing everything they can to influence or at least mitigate the outcome, no one should forget that 7 Supervisors got to the Board riding a wave of Progressive support.

And Progressives have no shortage of individuals who could step into the Mayor’s post in January and immediately outperform the incumbent. Tom Ammiano is the statesman for Progressive San Francisco. His record of public services is unsurpassed, having served from the School Board to the state capitol, with 14 years on the Board of Supervisors, including 2 terms as President. Aaron Peskin also has served as Board President for 2 terms, and as Chair of the Democratic Party, has done more to deliver for Progressive campaigns than any other individual. In the past 6 years, Ross Mirkarimi has posted some of the largest progressive wins in City Hall, and has inspired a national discussion on cutting edge environmental legislation. With a more limited tenure, David Campos and John Avalos have already taken the banner of the future of Progressive politics in San Francisco. Avalos has applied his unmatched community credentials to tackle 2 of the most difficult budgets in San Francisco history. Campos’s steadfast and whip-smart engagement has held the line on countless progressive issues.

Former Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano has six votes, but so far remains committed to advancing Progressive policies in the California Assembly.

Former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin became a solid Progressive in his last term in office. He heads the DCCC after Peskin and Daly wrested Party control from moderates.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has already left his Progressive mark on the local and national levels.

Supervisor David Campos has proven to be an effective legislator and a compassionate Progressive.

Supervisor John Avalos heads the Budget and Finance Committee and is working to advance local workforce hiring practices in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, very little about a conventional leadership battle is progressive. Usually, by the time the leadership vote is taken, it has already been worked out. An “orderly process” that is not messy, almost always is based on backroom deals where select individuals are promised political favors and personal advancement, while entire constituencies and the public at large are left in the dark and out in the cold. This “orderly process” was well under way in City Hall, when Supervisor John Avalos called it out with the introduction of motions to provide for public comment on the process to appoint a successor Mayor and possible additional public comment on the action itself.

Immediately, the Newsom administration pushed back, “It sends the wrong message to the people of this city when those with designs on Room 200 start measuring the drapes before Mayor Newsom has even left office.” Never mind that once Newsom leaves office, somebody will immediately begin to occupy it. Newsom and downtown would love to put off a public discussion about this, because they are more comfortable with the backroom discussions. And the closer we can get to the next seating of the Board of Supervisors without a decision, the more likely that their calls for a “caretaker” or “placeholder” Mayor will come to fruition.

Meanwhile, the elusive 6th vote for a genuine Progressive successor Mayor has been quietly trying to assemble the votes for himself. David Chiu was elected to the Board of Supervisors with the near unanimous support of Progressive San Francisco. Without the Progressive sweep of the Democratic County Central Committee and the unflinching support from the past President of the Board of Supervisors, David Chiu would likely not have won his seat on the Board.

Supervisor David Chiu was elected as a Progressive, calls himself a Progressive, but some worry that his drive for self-advancement will jeopardize the opportunity to appoint a Progressive interim mayor.

Once elected, Chiu cleverly positioned himself as a “compromise” candidate for Board President when no other Progressive could assemble the necessary 6 votes for the post. Starting as nobody’s first choice for Board President, Chiu slipped into the position on the 6th round of voting. Over the next 2 years, Chiu worked to recast himself as a centrist. While he sided with Progressives more often than not, David Chiu cast deciding votes for the Lennar Corporation against critical environmental and economic justice issues, cut deals behind Progressive backs with the Mayor on the budget, and blocked progressive Charter reform for MUNI, the Rec and Park Commission, and the Rent Board.

David Chiu must realize that he can no longer slip in as the “placeholder” candidate for the Progressives. His clearest path to Room 200 is through delay—putting up enough roadblocks in front of the current Board, so we do not make a decision before he assumes the Mayor post in an acting capacity on January 3rd. His best course is with the next Board of Supervisors, where 5 votes plus his own would keep him in Room 200. His math was made easier when his endorsed candidates (one with few progressive credentials) emerged the victors in District 6 and District 10. Chiu has introduced his own motion to direct the Clerk to develop a process to select the successor Mayor, even though existing Board rules already provide the Board that ability.

While Chiu’s proposed process has not yet been released, a preview of it included a super-majority threshold for adoption and sequestered Board members with the possibility of participation by lot. While it is uncertain whether the Board President or his supporters had any hand in creating the proposed process, it is clear that his process produces more obstacles and delay than necessary to select a successor Mayor. This strategy also is problematic for Progressives, because it plays into downtown’s hand, increasing the chance of either a “placeholder” Mayor or even someone from the Moderate political camp.

Progressive San Francisco has a once in a generation opportunity. We are at our best when we get out from behind closed doors and let the sun shine in. Progressive stakeholders, organizers, artists, activists, and everyday people have as much at stake right now as anyone else. It’s time that we hear from you. Please make your voice heard at this Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. We can’t afford to do it without you.

Chris Daly

Chris Daly

Chris Daly is the Political Director for SEIU Local 1021, a union of over 50,000 public sector and non-profit workers. He served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2001-2011 and owns and operates The Buck, a bar and grill on Market Street.

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  • Great piece,

    Looking forward to your opus on your 10 years on the Board. This is a great start.

    I’d say Ammiano wins if you vote before the new Board is seated and Chiu if after. With Wiener and Farrell aboard he gets, them plus Mar and Chu and Kim and Cohen. Best Ammiano get’s from new group is Mar and Mirk and Campos and Avalos. Chiu might toss in with Tom for one round for appearances (screwing two mentors – Aaron and Tom – in one year might be a bit much).

    That said, good piece of writing and this is gonna be some year. Come by and have a drink w/the Bulldog/FCJ/Pot Talk crew and we can kick the tires on some other issues and bad mouth everyone who isn’t there.

    Go NIners!


  • seej

    …”His (Chiu) best course is with the next Board of Supervisors, where 5 votes plus his own would keep him in Room 200.”

    I thought a sitting Supe cannot vote for him/herself…?

  • marc

    Chiu cannot vote for himself as a interim Mayor, but can vote to reelect himself to the position of Board President who would continue to serve as Acting Mayor until the Board of Supervisors could put together six votes to declare an Acting Mayor.


  • Jiro

    The old man of progressive politics has done us one more favor. Daly puts his cards on the table and asks citizens to engage in the process of choosing our next Mayor rather than let self-serving elites hijack the process once again.
    The next Mayor can serve the public interest, fight for those who lack a voice in our city or we can return to the familiar and install an empty, corporatist hack who is most useful to those who need government the least. That is the ugly status quo in our politics. In the Mayor’s office that is how it has been since Jack Shelley.
    That’s the choice now at the Board. If the selection process is left to a broken down and poorly led Board of Supervisors, and all of the pressure outgoing Mayor Newsom is capable of leveraging here and throughout the Democratic Party establishment (Pelosi, Feinstein, Jerry & Willie Brown) then San Francisco’s next Mayor will be more of what we know all too well. The entitled and politically invested will continue to run the town, and exploit the alienation hard working men and women naturally feel towards a compromised political system.
    So attention now in choosing the next Mayor can advance public interests have been walked all over by San Francisco’s dominant political class.
    Yes we deserve a public process in choosing the next Mayor, but above we deserve a successful outcome. Thanks Chris, John and David (Campos).

  • Ann Garrison


    “Aaron Peskin also has served as Board President for 2 terms, and as Chair of the Democratic Party, has done more to deliver for Progressive campaigns than any other individual.”

    I never once saw Aaron Peskin cast a vote against the aggression of the Lennar Corporation and the RDA between 2006 and 2008. And in 2007, as the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and the U.S. covert wars in Africa dragged on, he voted to continue requesting the return of the Blue Angels Air Show.

    Peskin is also adamant in his support of Nancy Pelosi, who not only joined San Francisco’s Young Republicans in endorsing Scott Weiner but also endorsed uber wealthy Republican James Fang in BART Board District #8, in addition to cattle driving Congressional Democrats behind every multi billion dollar war funding bill Obama has put forth since his election.

    Now I realize that Chris Daly and most other progressive elected Democrats endorsed Pelosi as well, but not with such ardor. And, I do wish the rest of you would stop doing that. Democrat does not = progressive.

    I’ve never understood why anyone characterizes Aaron Peskin as a progressive, perhaps because I didn’t much observe his voting habits before 2006, but two years was enough to make me ask that progressives, including Chris Daly, take him off their list of potential champions.

  • Ann Garrison

    Also, @Chris Daly: I’m going to send this to KPFA Sunday News Anchor Anthony Fest and suggest he call you tomorrow. If that works out, I’ll volunteer to edit the segment and get it out on the Web.

  • @Ann – I too was disappointed with Peskin’s support of Lennar early on. His rationale wasn’t bad — to support the District Supervisor on a project entirely within her district, but the outcome was. However, Peskin was an early supporter of Proposition F, to require 50% affordable housing in the development and was pushing very hard behind the scenes this past year for better environmental protections in the plan.

    For me, the biggest difference between Peskin and someone like David Chiu, is that Peskin has been one of the main forces for genuine progressive candidates in San Francisco. While Chiu was playing footsie with Prozan and Wiener, Peskin was dispatching every resource he could muster to help Rafael Mandelman. And without Peskin’s leadership at the DCCC, we probably wouldn’t have a Supervisor Avalos or Mar.

  • Good point Chris. I remember at one of Rafi’s first House Parties, at Jane Morrison’s, that Aaron was there with him and when they left Aaron was going to accompany him to the next event. Rafi was a little nervous because it was a Chili contest and he had entered his Bean Dish.

  • Javalos

    In all fairness, David Chiu did not “cut deals behind Progressive backs with the Mayor on the budget, and blocked progressive Charter reform for MUNI, the Rec and Park Commission, and the Rent Board.” Most, if not all the progressive Supervisors were in on such deals. I protested making deals and urged my colleagues to pare down the BoS budget restoration list. They refused and effectively took the budget out of my hands. The refusal to pare down the list led to a scenario where the only way out of preventing a Mayoral veto on the budget was to cut a deal. When it came down to it, David Chiu cut the deal and took the fall for other supervisors not willing to pare down the restoration list.

    Most, if not all, knew that in order to pass the budget someone had to fall on the sword and vote against the charter amendments. By linking the charter amendments to the city budget, Mayor Newsom was politicizing the budget process in a way it had never been politicized before. We had gridlock on the budget for weeks and the only way out was to have a restoration list that was not so ambitious or cut a deal, dropping the charter amendments. The deal was not cut behind people’s backs but most pretended the deal never occurred. At the full Board, I made similar comments to what I have written here.

  • Annie’s right,

    Peskin was never ever a Progressive. From his vote in 2000 effectively handing over 500 million over the last 10 years back to Shorenstein and company (Gross Receipts tax deal), to his giving the Fisher family the freedom (with an OK from Phil Ginsberg now, Yabadabadoo before) to pave over every soccer and playing field in town without Board approval.

    It was Aaron who guided the plan to throw all the smaller sail boats out of the harbor and plan a breakwater (he denied it and the plans were made public a couple of weeks ago) … he threw out the small boats and is creating an entry to the parking lot for huge yachts which requires a breakwater which experts have said is likely to divert the Bay waters sufficiently to bring down the Marina sea wall. Such a guy.

    All his jive about historical buildings (First, his liberal use of the Mills Act to give his super rich friends tax breaks – now his ‘Historical Commission or whatever) … just a tax dodge to help his buddies.

    David Chiu was a co-founder of ‘Grassroots Enterprises,’ an early and prominent PR Astro-Turf outfit that worked (and continues to) primarily for right-wing fundamentalists. He makes Peskin look moral and ethical and upright. When he backed down on the ballot measure to give supes a voice on the Park and Rec Board, Chiu did not say that he regretted this because the agency has been so poorly run and their assets from the Zoo to the golf course and soccer fields were being handed over to the rich … what Chiu said, as he made the trade, was that: “I was never in favor of making the Mayor give up appointments to Park and Rec anyway.”

    Supervisor Avalos, you say that your only option was to reject the budget completely? Well, that is exactly what you should have done. You’re supposed to have equal representation in the budget process and mayors usurped that process long ago. The Class of 2000 almost challenged Willie with their first budget. I think they may have gotten 4 votes against (a vote against equating to a vote for people power). In the decade or so since then I don’t think we’ve had over 2 members of the Board vote against the budget. That’s a bad thing.

    In short, the Class of 2000 made great strides but mostly sold out as the years passed and traded their souls for higher office or more money. The Class of 2008 talks big and votes a straight Downtown line. The Class of 2010? Looking more like the Class of 1996.

    These Boards (including ever so called ‘Progressive’ except Daly) gave Lennar 700 acres of SF for a dollar. They rebuilt the golf course and gave them away for nothing and agreed to maintain them for Sandy Tatum’s buddies. All the marinas, including those in parks and every friggin’ hot dog stand and the Zoo and all the art museums? And they’re now handing over the most valuable waterfront property to billionaire Larry Ellison because we’re supposed to be in competition (there are no competitive bids as Chris Daly said weeks ago) … supposed to be in competition for a giant yacht race (you can stand on a hill and watch sailboat races every day in the Bay) … the City staff and the Mayor and all of Ellisons kiss-asses talk about SF having to bid against entire countries like Spain and Italy who are offering billions of dollars in incentives and the BayCitizen.com reveals it to be a lie and the Mayor’s Office says it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not … doesn’t matter if everything is a lie? What a sad mess.

    Chiu will be your new mayor.

    But, at least we have the Niners to divert us?


  • @John — David Chiu most definitely cut budget deals behind this Progressive’s back. He never bothered to talk to me. And while you may have known about it, you didn’t agree. Chiu went ahead anyway, without the support of the only two sitting Supervisors who have served as Budget Chair.

    We did not need to illegally vote trade in order to pass a budget. We could have moved forward with our votes, wisely reserved Newsom’s priorities, and dealt with any subsequent vetoes. Important Charter reform would not have been sacrificed, no laws would have been broken, and we probably would have ended up with a very similar budget in the end.

  • Patrick

    Given the budget deficit, it seems that whoever becomes the new Mayor will be at the end of their political career. The City is facing a $400 million+ deficit. Last year, negotiators secured “givebacks” (which largely amounted to deferring raises) to close the gap. I don’t know what givebacks will be available going forward. The City has a huge unfunded pension liability and a huge unfunded healthcare liability. While the Bay Guardian crowd likes to talk about raising revenue, they bury their head in the sand when it comes to addressing pensions and other unfunded liabilities–key reasons we have a deficit. And the City’s ability to raise revenue is limited, particularly given the passage of Prop 26 and the now-entrenched Prop 13.

    Whoever assembles the next budget is going to have to cut deep into programs and non-profit allocations that matter to progressives–because pension and benefit costs are siphoning the money away.

    I don’t see the “acting Mayor” or “interim Mayor” lasting past the interim period; too many voters will be pissed off at watching the City decay further while City workers like cops, fire, etc. get salaries and benefits those in the private sector don’t get. I think the next Mayor would be well-advised to remember he or she represents the citizens of the City, not just the City’s workers.

  • marc

    @John, when confronted with someone who wants to overplay their hand on the budget, then you flip what Bill Clinton did in 1998 and shut the government down on good government principle rather than excruciatingly politicize it as Gingrich tried to do and Newsom did to you all.

    What happened here is that progressive supervisors blinked and prioritized a relative pittance in nonprofit subsidy that does good work but is budgetary chump change over a few incremental steps in the ongoing project of reforming billions of dollars in the big ticket departments like Muni, SFPD, Rec/Park, SFHA, SFRA, DPW, etc., effectively rendering that project dead in the water.

    The failure of our progressive supervisors to stand up to big corruption because folks are worried about their own private Idahos does not speak well to the voters for the progressive values that we’re supposed to hold. I’m glad that so many of our friends do work that is a drop in the bucket addressing social ills. But that is not the be all and end all for progressive voters as it is for progressive politicos.

    In the same way that the recent “community congress” was held by nonprofits to gather volunteers for supervisorial races and dissipated afterwards, the organizing prowess put on display 10 years ago has been thoroughly coopted by public subsidy to the extent that those individuals will not or can’t do the organizing that it takes to coerce a favorable outcome over mayoral succession.

    An acting or interim Mayor can only survive if s/he reconfigures how San Francisco government works so that the political calculus is not downtown and nonprofits working a protection racket to suck down public resources for their own private benefit. To do otherwise is political suicide for progressives.


  • Ann Garrison

    @Chris Daly: Last night I talked to today’s KPFA Weekend News host re this being an important forward leading story to report today. I asked if he had a # for you and he said yeah, but he wasn’t sure it was one you’d answer on the weekend. I’m going in there right now to produce my Africa news, maybe help with this if there’s time and you’re reachable, so if you want to send me a number where he can call you, I’ll share it. with Anthony Fest, one of KPFA’s best, on the air and the LSB, and a San Franciscan who gets it better than a lot of East Bay reporters.

    But I’m afraid I don’t understand what it is you want people to do on Tuesday. Just show up for the usual “HONK” insult at public comment? My other complaint about Aaron Peskin is that I asked him to do something about the HONK!!!, told him there’s no need to insult the citizenry like that, and he said “OK, lemme think about that,” but did nothing.

    When I posted a few of my anti-Blue Angels fits to the Youtube, even people who hated what I was saying called for doing away with the HONK!!! I think you’ve got full-time audio-visual staff down there that could easily come up with something more respectful.

    Your post ends “Please make your voice heard at this Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.” Is there an agenda item to speak to or are you just asking us to come down for the general pubic comment HONK!!!?

  • Ann Garrison

    @Chris: I just talked to Anthony, who said he thinks he still has a cell # for you, so it seems like a question of whether or not you’re going to answer on Sunday. I told him I was trying to figure out whether or not there’s an agenda item. If this worked and I then posted a podcast on some news websites, it would be some of the only news produced AT KPFA rather than news ABOUT KPFA visible there.

  • brookse32

    @Ann to Anthony Fest:

    The items are two 4pm special orders, agenda items 45 and 46.

    The Board Agenda is at:
    and those items are on page 18 of the agenda.

    Item 45 can be read at:

    Item 46 can be read at:

  • lisapelletier

    Chris Daly is the real deal. He’s stuck it out for ten years and fought hard to protect the rights of tenants, the homeless and other marginalized folks in his district. He came out of a true grassroots campaign and has remained accessible to his constituentss. Oh, and he was the sole vote against the Lennar project. That’s right, Daly was the ONLY supe with the moral fiber to stand against the billionaires after they had co-opted every other politician. In short, he is the most qualified candidate for mayor. And he doesn’t stand a chance… Because he can’t be bought and isn’t beholden to corporate or downtown interests. And that’s a sad statement on progressive politics in SF.

  • Ann Garrison

    KPFA News; I posted to FB and Twitter, will see where else to post it before tomorrow: http://goo.gl/WP1Yl.

    But, as is so often the case, I wish this were taking place during the evening. I think that most of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday meeting, most of all any items inviting public comment should take place in the evening, so that more people are able to attend after the 9-5 work day.

  • Ann Garrison

    I also have a feeling there’s an elephant in the room.

    Wasn’t David Chiu the kick-off speaker at Jane Kim’s campaign, and didn’t he raise more money for her than anyone else? Isn’t it likely that she might be under pressure from a good number of her Asian supporters to back his bid to become mayor, after the new Board is seated?

    I don’t know Jane KIm or her history on the School Board, and when I asked someone who does whether there isn’t some anxiety about this, he responded that Jane Kim has never been known to be for sale, and has resisted similar pressures in the past.

    I hope that’s so, but I don’t think we should be afraid to talk about real anxiety in the air for real reason, or pretend that money doesn’t talk as loudly here as everywhere else.